Books for July and August

Despite a busy summer, I actually managed to get through a few books, thanks in large part to a quiet vacation with plenty of time for reading.

Realms: The First Year of Clarkesworld Magazine edited by Nick Mamatas and Sean Wallace [4/5]

An excellent mix of stories chosen from the first year of Clarkesworld Magazine, including outstanding pieces like Elizabeth Bear’s “Orm the Beautiful” and Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “The Ape’s Wife.” There’s also great stuff from Jay Lake (“Chewing Up the Innocent”), Barth Anderson (“Clockmaker’s Requiem”), Jeff VanderMeer (“The Third Bear”), Ekaterina Sedia (“The Taste of Wheat”) and others. Highly recommended.

The Queen’s Bastard (The Inheritors’ Cycle, Book 1) by C.E. Murphy [3/5]

Unfortunately, I didn’t end up liking this as much as I wanted. I thought it started out strongly, but then things seemed to get too bogged down in the protagonist’s internal dilemmas, to the point where I began to get somewhat exasperated. I’d still recommend that fans of Catie’s give it a try, especially if they’re looking for something a bit darker and edgier than her two Luna series (The Walker Papers and The Negotiator Trilogy), but it didn’t quite work for me.

Heart-Shaped Boxby Joe Hill [4/5]

The horror gets ratcheted up pretty quickly in this ghost story, but then it seems to stick at the same level for far too long, which causes it to lose some of its punch. I also wasn’t especially enamoured of the ending. Still, the prose is quite good, so I’d say this one is well worth a read despite its flaws.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson [3/5]

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of ANATHEM via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, which is why I’m reviewing it before its official release date. This novel has Stephenson’s usual wry humor and deep thoughts, but I thought that the poorly-handled plot detracted from what may otherwise have been another great book in the vein of CRYPTONOMICON or THE BAROQUE CYCLE. Instead of being glad when the plot side of things finally got moving, I ended up being frustrated by the pacing (too much time spent on rehashing things that were already explained, too much time spent on going on and on about maneuvering in space, too much time spent on not very evocative descriptions of the spacecraft) and some of the false buildups that ended up going nowhere. I also wasn’t at all fond of the cheesy epilogue ending to the book.

Overall, I think I would have been happier if Stephenson had either stuck with the philosophical debates (which were really interesting) or, better yet, not fumbled what could have been a good plot. If you’re already a big fan of Neal’s work then maybe you should take a crack at this one (since obviously opinions will differ), but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else.

As-yet-unpublished manuscripts read:

  • Out of Her Element by Ekaterina Sedia

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